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Cliff Schecter | Midterms: Money Changes Everything

Political donations from nefarious groups are strangling US democracy, and a former Bush adviser is cashing in.

Political donations from nefarious groups are strangling US democracy, and a former Bush adviser is cashing in.

“I went to the crossroad, fell down upon my knees.” This was the powerful first line of “Cross Road Blues” by 1930s blues legend Robert Johnson. It was later adapted into the song “Crossroads” by Eric Clapton’s Cream and a movie of the same name, starring the serially pre-pubescent Ralph Macchio. The song and movie were infamously about going down to a crossroads in the Mississippi Delta, to sell your soul to the Devil.

Today, meeting Mephistopheles is much simpler: You can simply turn over barrels of cash in unmarked bills to American Crossroads or Crossroads GPS, the two appropriately named groups formed by one of the most wretched, sebum-stained forces of evil at the current American political crossroads: Karl Rove.

Yes, Karl Rove, that American everyman—if everyday Americans were an almost perfect mixture of Lucky Luciano and Sloth from The Goonies. Apparently, Rove wasn’t satisfied with only helping fabricate evidence to pave America’s way into a war in Iraq, outing an undercover CIA agent, and “advising” the most dollar-drenched, demagogic, and incompetent executive office since Cleon of Athens. So he’s returned to active involvement in our political process from his perch as a pundit, for a coda to his democracy corruption, because someone has to protect the rights of voiceless, persecuted tobacco and healthcare conglomerates among us so they can make themselves heard over the din of daily discussions on the American unemployment line.

To be clear, we are not talking about a few pretty pennies here or there. Rove’s groups are expected to spend between $50m and $75m by election day, “educating” the public about candidates and issues, in much the same way you become educated by watching Jackass 3D or Christine O’Donnell talk about stuff. And this has all been made possible thanks to a Supreme Court majority made up of far-right mutants who decided that 100 years of established law trying to limit the flow of corporate money into our system just had it all wrong.

In this Supreme Court majority’s adorably antiquated view, corporations—or “people” as they’re now known—should be able to give unlimited funds to groups that are dirtier than a test tube of Russell Brand’s blood, and these organizations are not required to disclose from whence their slush funding came. Because, really, what’s healthier for democracy than wealthy elites secretively giving gobs of cash to those who will vote on legislation that effects their bottom line?

Of course, Rove’s groups weren’t the only ones to benefit from this mockery of a decision, as the Chamber of Commerce, according to some fantastic reporting by the Center for American Progress blog Think Progress, has become a way station for any foreign group or individual from the Reverend Sun Myung Moon to BP to Fidel Castro, who wishes to unduly influence our political system. Hell, even wives of Supreme Court Justices have gotten in on the good times, as none other than Ginni Thomas, Clarence’s wife, can thank her husband and his black-robed buds for allowing her hastily formed local Tea-Party Mob—Liberty Central—to collect cash from any crank with a dollar and a dream.

This is the same Ginni Thomas who recently called Anita Hill—a law professor who Clarence Thomas spent the 80s sexual harassing when Hill worked for him at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (no, that is not a joke)—at 7am on a Saturday morning at her office at Brandeis University. Why? To ask Hill for an apology for being sexually harassed by her husband and telling us about it back in 1991, when Thomas tragically had his lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court confirmed with the fewest votes by the US Senate in the history of the country.

Somewhere, upon reading this, OJ Simpson is probably calling the Brown and Goldman families to ask for an apology at this very moment.

So to sum up, the awkwardly unstable Ginni Thomas and her goofy Liberty Central Tea-Party group, because of a decision at least partially placed into law by her husband, in between viewings of Long Dong Silver, can now collect millions in secret corporate contributions to enrich her family while trying to elect others whose political philosophies also predate penicillin. Isn’t that special?

In Federalist #10, author and eventual American President James Madison sternly warned of the danger posed by “factions” to a democracy, by which he meant the ability of private interests to overwhelm the public good. There could be no better example of this danger than that posed by large caches of money spent in secret by oil company billionaires, foreign entities and large corporations to influence our politics.

Full disclosure is obviously a necessity that needs to be addressed. Outside tampering in American elections must be prevented. And there has to be some way to make it illegal for Ginny Thomas to use a telephone.

For, if sanity does indeed once again prevail, limits on the flow of money from these factions will have to again be enacted. In the meantime, sadly, we’ll all be forced to endure as Karl Rove and his ilk attempt to take American democracy hostage to their very perverted form of 19th Century politics.

Cliff Schecter is the President of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, the author of the 2008 bestseller The Real McCain, and a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. To hear Cliff Schecter speak at the National Media Reform Conference in Boston In April, go vote for him here. Follow Cliff Schecter on Twitter: @Cliffschecter

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